Leg 1: Southampton, England, to Cape Town, South Africa
Dispatch 1: Slogging to the Equator | Dispatch Archive
October 9, 2001
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As I watched the Volvo Ocean Yachts leap across the start line in
the Solent I had mixed feelings. Part of me was glad to be a
spectator and part of me wanted to be going with them. The start
is always so exciting for the crews, after years of designing and
building the boats, training the teams, testing the sails, suddenly it
all comes together and nothing matters except for the stretch of
ocean in front of you. The next time you see land it will be 7,000
nautical miles away, and it will be Table Mountain, in Cape
Town, South Africa.
There was a perfect breeze as the gun went and all 8 boats put up
their spinnakers and flew down the solent. At first it seemed as if
there was nothing between them and then Grant Dalton on Amer
Sport pulled away from the rest of the fleet as the girls on Amer
Sport Too lost their spinnaker and battled to put a new one up.
They did so in record time and headed out, not too far behind the
rest of the fleet.
The start and the first 24 hours are crucial to strategy and the
motivation of the teams. The slog down to the equator is the
opportunity to put yourself in the best possible place for crossing
the doldrums. If you get it right you can slide through the area of
no wind in a couple of days, get it wrong and you could take a lot
longer while the other boats head into the South Atlantic. As the
boats slow down, and the back markers catch they will be watching
to see who gets through first. There is everything to play for at this
For the skippers it is more difficult to motivate and push your crew
when there is no wind. Getting it right is everything.
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